1. Leech Lake
Too many big walleyes? It’s like music to my ears! This is one lake that continues to pump out numbers of solid walleyes every year! I have spent quite a bit of time out here and it seems for every fish you get under the slot, you’ll catch 5 fish over the 20″ slot. If you’re interested in keeping fish, Leech had it’s slot limit liberalized from 18″-26″ to 20″-26″ allowing anglers to hopefully bring home more fish! Go to techniques are going to be pretty standard, pitching jigs and minnows in 6-12 feet of water seems to consistently produce on the big lake. If you enjoy trolling, the night bite is a good way to beat the crowds. #7 Firetiger Shad Raps in 9-14 feet transitioning into #5 Shad Raps in 6-9 as the evening progresses. Fish seem to be just about on every shallow piece of structure this time of year but some of the better places to look are Big and Little Hardwood Points, Duck Point, Stony Point, and Pine point. An area that often produces an incredible bite is the Grandview and Goose Island Flats. It takes a little more work to find the fish but when you land on a school, the fishing can be incredible! The In-Depth Outdoors crew will also be filming their opener show on Leech Lake out of Trapper’s Landing.
2. Rainy River/Lake of the Woods
Unlike the last few springs which have been incredibly late and ladened with moisture, this year has been a different story. Low flows made fishing the river difficult this season but guys were still able to get on some good bites in the weaning hours.
If you’ve kept your ear to the ground these last couple openers you’ve probably heard the 4 Mile Bay and Pine Island areas were kicking out more big fish than an FLW event on Erie. Even though it’s a different year, I have a feeling there will still be plenty of fishing hanging around those areas, and all you need is a jig and shiner. No rocket surgery involved!
3. Lake Winnibigoshish
The lake affectionately known as Winnie will again be another great opener choice. The DNR has relaxed the slot from 17 to 26 inches to 18 to 23″, which means they believe the lake is in good health! Fishing the points up the west side in 8-12′ by dragging a jig and minnow is a deadly presentation, more times than not out producing a vertical presentation. The break line outside of the mouth of Cut Foot Sioux can be dynamite for targeting post spawn fish. Working the break in 13-20′ with a #5 or #6 Rippin’ Rap in Perch is deadly for big females! Another plus to fishing Winnie, grab a lindy rig with a fathead in 18-22′ and you’ll know what I’m talking about! Loads of nice Perch were being caught at the end of the winter, and you bet they are still around! The sand out in front of High Banks resort is a great spot to get into a mess of perch!
4. Lake Minnetonka
For those of you who can’t get away for the opener, you’re in luck! One of the best lakes in the state is right in your backyard! Target the westside of the lake rather than the east side during the day because of the water clarity. The eastern part is gin clear and can be a tough nut during the day. Jigging and rigging around weed lines in 14-18′ can be very productive. Leeches and large fatheads are the bait of choice. If you’re looking to hit the night shift, turn to pitching light jigs near current areas, especially around bridges. A lot of the shoreline sand reefs on the far east side hold a lot of walleyes around opener, and the conditions set up perfectly for a night bite. Casting #7 Smash Shads in natural patterns around 8′ is a great way to cover water and catch fish. Once you find a pod of fish, pitch jigs and minnows on the pod of fish.
5. Get off the Beaten Path
If you’re not too keen on hitting Minnesota’s more popular lakes, don’t be afraid to try something new! If you haven’t had it beaten into your head enough, I’ll give it one more shot! The MN DNR Lake Finder App online is invaluable for finding new lakes! Find a particular area you’re interested in and start looking at creel surveys for the lakes. Once you find a lake with a high density of walleyes it’s time to go to the map. Often times small lakes with high walleye populations are easy to fish for one simple reason – there isn’t as many places to hide! Once you have the map in front of you, look for prominent pieces of structure an start there. There are few more rewarding experiences in fishing than finding a lake from scratch and getting on a good bite, most of the times you won’t have to do a lot of sharing either!